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Rick Edmund
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Rick Edmund

Rick Edmund is a United Methodist church pastor in Maryland. He resides on Smith Island, which has been impacted by rising sea-level and in 2007 testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment about climate change and the Chesapeake Bay. ALL POSTS

'Fountains of life'

Q: Recently, a U.N. scientific report was found to have included a false conclusion about the melting of Himalayan glaciers. That followed the release of stolen e-mails last year, which showed climate scientists commiserating over problems with their data. Is there a broader meaning in these two incidents, and should they cause the public to be more skeptical about the underlying science of climate change?

Yes, there have been highly publicized incidents where people have intentionally or unintentionally manipulated data or the release of data which in itself would cast doubt on climate change. Last week we heard about a controversy involving glaciers in the Himalayans. Last week too I heard a report that a little extra weight was good for seniors. While a bit comforting it doesn't change the overall perspective that I need to lose some pounds if I want to live longer and feel better. Whether our health or the health of our planet, the best we can do is to go with what we know at the time.

Even if we do throw out the questionable material; even if we ignore all the scientific evidence, it seems to me from an observable and logical perspective, we are doing things to the planet beyond its capacity to correct. For example, I can not tell you one person who says something like, "It sure snows a lot more now than when I was young," Everyone I've personally heard from granted a limited area, remembers more snow when a child. Here on Smith Island in the Chesapeake Bay of Maryland, youngsters could ice skate a good part of the winter and blizzards would occasionally occur. Neither of those conditions have happened recently. If that is happening in different places worldwide, it seems a fair indication that something is happening with the weather and maybe the climate. Wildlife seem to be expanding their territories. Is that due to changes in climate? Even if not as quickly as some would have had us believe, the glaciers of the Himalayan Mountains are receding, along with many other places around the globe such as Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa.

We can learn a lot from native peoples around the world. They who have lived on the same land for thousands of years have out of necessity learned to respect the nature around them. When we see our by-products being dumped into the air, water, and land doesn't that tell us we need to rethink our conception of progress. I recently heard the term "over-civilized". John Muir used it to encourage people to try to preserve national parks in the United States. Maybe we are becoming over civilized by not taking care of our waste and altering nature, which Muir called "fountains of life."

By Rick Edmund  |  January 30, 2010; 8:51 AM ET Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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"Whether our health or the health of our planet, the best we can do is to go with what we know at the time."

Yes, that's a nice statement, but think about what you are saying.

Some studies have linked cell phone usage with brain damage. Does that mean you stop using cell phones even though this would reduce your quality of life and limit your choice of jobs (have you met a manager without a company phone in any tech industry)?

Some studies have linked CO2 emissions with global warming. Does that mean we spend trillions of dollars while reducing the quality of life of EVERYONE across the world (except maybe the climate researchers and their investors)?

It's not the science that I have a problem with. It's the way the "scientists" are trying to force actions which are extremely expensive, morally gray, and most likely utterly ineffective.

Posted by: antispy | February 3, 2010 8:12 AM
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Great post, Pastor Edmund. One of the sticking points through all the noise is that many making the noise live behind walls with false air conditioning or heat to keep us cool or warm. We really don't live off of the land, thus, have no first hand experience.

Inuit Eskimos, Tuvalu Islanders, American Indians, and, yes, animal migration and plant growth patterns provide more answers to accelerating climate change.

Now, some may come on here screaming that "The Winter of 2009/10" has had plenty of snow and cold in the Mid Atlantic. However, seasonal weather is only a piece of the climate puzzle. Periods of cold, wet, hot, dry, etc. will continue, strictly due to the amount of insolation on different parts of the earth at different times of the year, what we call "seasons". Our atmosphere isn't becoming Venus anytime soon.

This said, the degree of the "cold" this winter needs to be assessed more closely. Have there been any true arctic outbreaks diving south into the Midwest and Mid Atlantic? Not for awhile, and not this winter. Highs in the lower 30s and lows in the teens happen a few times every winter over the MD/VA piedmont and coastal plain. From my recollection, the last time the DC area faced a true arctic outbreak was in mid January of 1994, when daytime temperatures failed to break out of the single digits (F), and nighttime temperatures fell well below zero (F).

In my lifetime, there were similar outbreaks in 1977, 1983 (Christmastime), 1985 (Reagan Inauguration), 1989 (before Christmas). Subjectively, an 8 year return. It's been 16 years and counting since 1994. A trend worth noting, especially of the 2009/2010 winter becomes some kind of cold "benchmark".

The ice formation you mention usually follows one of these true arctic outbreaks, followed by a period of seasonably cold temperatures (30s daytime, teens/lower 20s night) in dry air (low wetbulb temperatures) which enhance evaporative cooling around water and enabling ice to form or retain more quickly.

I distinctly remember skating on thick ice on the Potomac in 1989 and again in 1994.

For what it's worth, January 2010 in DC will probably end up right around the long term average; December 2009 was only 1.6F below average. For comparison, Dec. 1989 was nearly 12F below average!

Another winter trend to look for: Snowfall in the upper midwest. If we start seeing 70+ inch seasonal snows routinely in Wisconsin and Minnesota ("normals" are closer to 50 inches), that is a sign that increasing moisture from the deeper tropics is getting into the precipitation production mix. Typically, contintental (dry) air from the American Great Plains mixes much of this moisture out, holding winter snowfall down in these areas. Gulf/tropical moisture arriving more frequently - impeded less by contintental drying - might be a medium term indicator of accelerated climate change.

Finally, I believe G-d gave humankind dominion over the earth - but a dominion that includes our responsibility to care for all living things and protect and cultivate our unique planet.

We were given the brainpower to advance technologically, but also to work with G-d's creation to renew it.

The time for renewal has arrived.

Posted by: wxdancer | January 31, 2010 11:16 AM
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"know"?

Posted by: JWMeritt | January 30, 2010 5:54 PM
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I can understand why a religious man would embrace the theory of global warming. Surrendering one's critical thinking to the dictates of a 'higher' authority are common to both cases. But some of us--thank God!--are refusing to drink the Kool-Aid.

Posted by: cocktails42 | January 30, 2010 12:54 PM
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Pastor Edmund:

Check out the 17DEC09 issue of "Nature."

That paper explains that during the last interglacial, sea levels were 25 feet higher than our present sea level.

Count on Smith Island being drowned. It happened during the last interglacial, and man had no impact on that environment 100,000 years ago. It will happen again.

Posted by: RobertAJonesJr | January 30, 2010 12:12 PM
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I couldn't agree more! I'm tired of everyone feeling that they have to become a environmental scientist to decide whether or not to begin to change their habits. Of course we are having a big impact on the planet. And could each of us do our part? Yes. Should we? Of course! It really isn't much more complicated than that.

It is our planet, our home. You are absolutely right in that any of us over 40 do know the weather patterns have changed and we just can't mess around with this.

It is funny to me that folks like to spend time following and arguing with the science, when they could be learning how they could leave a smaller footprint. It is the right thing do, we tell our kids to clean up their rooms, let's do the same.

Katie

Posted by: ThinkGreen | January 30, 2010 11:09 AM
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